Make "Eyes Smile" with Irish Stew

Johnny Wilson, and his wife, Jordan, operate Marshall Ag in central Iowa. In addition, Jordan will graduate this May as a registered nurse.

The love of farming prompted John Wilson to leave his native Ireland and study agriculture at Iowa State University (ISU) just as his father had.  The difference is that upon graduating from ISU his father returned to northern Ireland.  John Wilson, however, immigrated to the United States.

Without an opportunity to farm in his native Ireland, young John Wilson moved to the central Iowa community of Laurel. He soon began farming land that had been in his mother’s family.  And today the family’s farming tradition continues as his son, Johnny, farms in partnership with him in Marshall County.

“My dad has been really good about allowing me to get my feet wet and about entertaining new ideas,” says Johnny, who returned to the family farm four years ago.  “We buy equipment together.  We make our seed selections and we buy our chemicals together.  We each have our own roles, but we’re both very passionate about continually educating ourselves in an effort to increase yields.”

In addition to raising row crops, Johnny operates Marshall Ag in Laurel.  He sells chemicals, fertilizer and seed with the objective to make every seed a success.

“I’ve always wanted to be in business and technology.  But in my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d farm with my dad,” says Johnny, who completed an engineering internship and then worked four years for Mechdyne, one of the world’s largest companies dedicated to consulting and developing advanced Audio Visual (AV), immersive 3D, networked, and collaborative visualization solutions.

“The cool thing is that agriculture incorporates business and technology,” adds Johnny.  “I’m delighted to get back to my roots in agriculture.”

Like any good farmer, Johnny appreciates where his food comes from.  And like any good Irishman, he especially enjoys his meat and veggies.  Fried lamb chops with mint sauce is one of his favorite meals.  Another favorite is Ulster Fry.

“As my grandparents say, there’s nothing more northern Ireland than an Ulster Fry,” he says.  This full breakfast consists of several courses.  It traditionally begins with fruit juice, cereal, potato bread and soda bread.  It also includes several entrees such as bacon and eggs, blood sausage, small pancakes, fried tomatoes, baked beans and sometimes black pudding. Hot tea with milk is the traditional beverage.

As a tribute to the Emerald Isle, today we’re sharing a recipe for Irish Stew that’s very similar to what Johnny’s grandmother makes.  Fortunately, the recipe below calls for “cups” and “teaspoonfuls” rather than grammes and milligrammes.  Whip up a batch of Irish Stew with a side of soda bread and see if you can make your family’s eyes smile!

Authentic Irish Stew



  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 4 medium onions
  • Sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 pint of lamb stock (hot water and two lamb stock cubes)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 good shakes of Worcestershire Sauce (Lea & Perrins)
  • 1 tablespoon of Pearl Barley
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 3.5 tbsp flour
  • Salt and Pepper to taste



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop up the onions into rough chunks.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut each into 4 parts.
  4. Scrape the carrots then cut into larger than normal chunks.
    • Click on the picture to enlarge it for an idea of how big to chop the vegetables. Part of the charm of Irish Stew is that ingredients are kept in large chunks. Plus it saves preparation time.
  5. After 5 to 10 minutes, remove the fatty pieces from the frying pan and throw them away.
  6. Fry each lamb chop in the fat for about three minutes at a medium temperature - turn half way through.
  7. Put the onions and carrots over the lamb chops in the casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add the Worcestershire Sauce (Lea & Perrins), the pearl barley and the lamb stock.
  9. Finally add the potatoes on top, don't mix them in with the other ingredients
    • The aim is to let them be steam cooked over the other ingredients.
  10. Add some more salt and pepper to season the potatoes.
  11. Put the casserole (covered) in the pre-heated oven and cook for 1 hour.
  12. Roux is a mix of 50/50 butter and flour which will thicken the gravy in the casserole dish. It can be used to thicken all sorts of sauces as well.
  13. Melt the butter on a medium heat in a pan, then whisk (or vigorously fork in) the flour.
  14. Cook for 2 minutes whisking all the time to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

For step- by-step directions on how to prepare this stew, including photographs, visit


Photo from

Preparation Time:  15 minutes
Cooking Time:  1 hour, 10 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Yield:  4 servings

NOTE:  Although this recipe calls for stew made the “authentic way” with lamb chops, beef is an alternative to lamb.  It’s also not recommended that leftovers be frozen.